>Towards Global Earthquake Safety
>Amy Young works in project development at GeoHazards International (GHI),
>a Palo Alto based nonprofit grassroots organization established in 1993,
>dedicated to reducing the death and injury caused by earthquakes in the
>world's most vulnerable communities. GHI makes a community safer by
>raising awareness of its risk, building local institutions to manage that
>risk, and strengthening schools to protect and train the community's
>Amy will give an overview of GHI's past work and discuss projects now
>underway at a global level, working in developing cities around the world.
>For more information go to www.geohaz.org.
Amy began her talk by explaining that during the past fifty years or so, a majority of the earthquake preparedness done in the world had been done in places like California and Japan, with the net result being that while earthquake hazards had not changed here, earthquake risk had gone down to the point where it is much less of an issue here than in the third world.
During that same time, urban populations in Africa, Latin America, and the far east had climbed to the point where those cities are now the big earthquake risk centers on the planet. GeoHazards International (GHI) works to raise awareness in such places about the issue, and to build community awareness that they have the power to mitigate the problem with some very cost effective measures.
She gave examples from places like Katmandu, where they identified a situation that has large earthquake risks. They worked with an indigenous group, the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) who trained local masons in seismic-resistant construction techniques. The then used the knowledge to retrofit a school, because every member of the community wanted their children to be safe. The hope is that those techniques, like getting the beams to line up at joints, will be used in all further construction by those masons, creating a ripple effect that will be amplified after a potential disaster, when people see what worked.
Uptake of the ideas is somewhat limited by the roles of governments in different places. While people the world over want to survive, risk management priorities are different everywhere. Amy gave as an example what happens in a train wreak. In the U.S. a double digit body count will cause changes to be made, whereas in India a thousand deaths in a similar incident is not seen as that big of a problem. Getting the train running again is what matters more.
GHI tries to work around this by pointing out that good infrastructure makes a place more welcoming for International Investment, something that many governments want. To facilitate this, they publish statistics about what mortalities are likely in various cities from earthquakes during the next fifty years, both in absolute numbers and on a per capita basis. The model used includes factors like respect for building codes and probability that an earthquake will happen there. Several places, like San Salvador, have had earthquakes that statistically conformed to the predicted numbers since the charts were made.